The Self Promoting Pastor – “If Angels Could Weep, It Would Be At Folly Like This”

John ElmergantryBrown of Edinburgh (1784-1853) offers the following sound advice to pastors in his commentary on Galatians. It seems particularly apt in our age of celebrity pastors and evangelists:

“Egotism, or a disposition to bring forward a person’s self, is a characteristic of a weak mind and a contracted heart. It is not an agreeable feature in any man’s character ; but it is peculiarly disagreeable when it is a leading trait in the character of a man who, from the office he fills, should be distinguished by the wide comprehension of his views, and the generous liberality of his affections. Such a man is a minister of the gospel ; and there is something incongruous and disgusting in one whose mind ought to be habitually employed about the glory of the Divine character — the order and stability of the Divine government — the restoration of a ruined world to purity and happiness — the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son of God — the transforming and consoling influence of the Holy Ghost — the joys and the sorrows of eternity — and whose grand business it ought to be to bring these things, in all their reality and importance, before the minds of his fellow-men — it is incongruous and disgusting in such a man to appear primarily anxious to draw men’s attention to himself — seizing every opportunity to bring himself into notice — exhibiting the truths of the gospel chiefly for the purpose of displaying his own talents — calling men’s attention to them more as his opinions than as God’s truth, and less ambitious of honouring the Saviour, and saving those who hear him, than of obtaining for himself the reputation of piety, or learning, or acuteness, or eloquence. This is truly pitiable ; and if angels could weep, it would be at folly like this.

 A minister of the gospel can scarcely, in ordinary circumstances, keep himself too much in the background. He should try to forget himself, and to make his hearers forget him, in his subject. His ambition should be to be a voice proclaiming, ‘ Behold Him ! behold Him !’ attracting no notice itself, but fixing the mind directly and entirely on the subject of the message.”

[John Brown,  AN EXPOSITION OF THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS, William Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1853, pp. 53-54]


About Andrew Webb

I was converted out of paganism and the occult in 1993 and while I was initially Charismatic/Arminian in my theology, I became Reformed and Presbyterian through bible study and the influence of ministries like RC Sproul's. After teaching in local bible studies, and taking seminary courses part time, I began to feel called to the ministry in 1997. I was Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in Hatboro, PA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina Presbytery in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor/Church Planter for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor
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2 Responses to The Self Promoting Pastor – “If Angels Could Weep, It Would Be At Folly Like This”

  1. not impressed says:

    I wish this was not a common problem but it is. Pastors who use their ministerial role as a means to credibility, public status and respect and a means to let everyone know what truly wonderful human beings they are. . Sadly, most of the churches I have seen this in, not one person bats an eyelash. Its almost like there is an unspoken rule that they won`t confront the pastor`s sins because then there is a tacit understanding that he probably won`t confront theirs either. The most truly heinous sin you could commit, the grossest breach of good spiritual behaviour and godliness, besides getting caught in a sexual scandal or some other big sin, is to point out the lack of true spiritual health in that situation. If you want to become the blackest villain in the church, speak the truth. Cry out aloud `But the emperor is naked`! and you will find yourself the victim of slanted accusations and all sorts of other lovely little goodies. I have actually seen pastors attack people form the pulpit because that person dared to confront their sins of vanity, egotism and jonesing for approval in a biblically respectful way, in private. These kinds of sins are about power, control, image and status and spiritual abuse usually goes right along with it.

    John the Baptist said that he must decease while Jesus must increase and yet the motto of many in pulpits today is the opposite. The image they defend the most is their own, sometimes with whatever treachery and underhanded moves necessary. I am not even talking about celebrity pastors who make big buckaroos selling their ministry materials. I`m talking about pastor joe everyday. I once went to visit a pastor and his wife and as soon as we got there, he was busy pulling out all his awards for various things, showing us these little plastic and glass trophies that were the proof of his giftedness and success. Every conversation involved lots of name dropping. Neither the pastor or his wife ever seemed to realize that this was a serious symptom of ill spiritual health. I see this as a serious signal that we have lost touch with the holiness of God. We all need to seek God for Him to move on people`s hearts and do a work of restoration in the church. I will sign up to be the first recipient of that work, if you don`t mind.

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